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The New Paper: How Tablets Are Infiltrating the Workplace

Tablet computers begin to find their business niche as productivity and presentation enhancers.

It turns out neither your smartphone nor your laptop should be jealous of your sleek new iPad. But those big, old three-ring binders that have always held performance reports and sales charts? Well, their days are numbered.

Tablets such as the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy and Dell Streak are having a surprising effect at the office.

"It's much better than a binder," says Sanju Bansal, COO of MicroStrategy, a Vienna, Va., company that develops business intelligence software for the iPad and other devices. MicroStrategy bought iPads for 1,370 of its 2,000 employees. "It's better than having to go through 50 to 100 sheets of paper in a binder. You get full access to information and can share it more quickly."

A laptop can do roughly the same thing, but tablets may be more culturally accepted in the workplace. "There's something very human about the tablet that isn't human about the laptop," Bansal says. "When you open a laptop in a meeting, it's like you are erecting a cultural barrier between yourself and others. Tablets already have the cultural acceptance of paper."

MicroStrategy is seeing its customers adopt the iPad initially at the executive levels before it trickles down. Bansal tells of a retailer equipping its store managers with iPads to keep them on the move and a hospitality company that uses them to help hotel managers get out from behind their front desks.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, which adapted its multimedia organizer, tagging and storage app for the iPad, says his Mountain View, Calif., company sees tablets' appeal to a new type of user.

"We don't think of business users as any different from consumers," Libin says. "It appeals to the modern knowledge worker."

Dan O'Shea is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering telecom, mobile and other high-tech topics for nearly 20 years.

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This article was originally published in the February 2011 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The New Paper.

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